Capturing flavors of the Mediterranean region


September 13, 2006|By David Kohn | David Kohn,Sun reporter

Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean

By Ana Sortun

Cooking From the Heart of Spain

By Janet Mendel

Morrow Cookbooks / 2006 / $24.95

In contrast to Marlena de Blasi, Janet Mendel is appealingly straightforward. Cooking From the Heart of Spain introduces readers to the cuisine of La Mancha, the country's central region. This area is famous for its saffron, wine and Manchego cheese.

Mendel, a journalist who has lived in Spain for four decades, understands that although readers may be eager to hear about exotic cuisines, most are less than eager to spend hours in the kitchen. She offers shortcuts as well as tips on how to substitute everyday ingredients if items are unavailable.

Overall, Mendel is aware that her audience wants good food without too much trouble. For instance, she includes a recipe for 15-Minute Fish Soup, which she says is a Madrid classic. Mendel tested it against the clock and found that it works - as long as you don't count the time it takes to chop the tomatoes, peas and onions.

Seared Salmon With Egyptian Garlic and Coriander Sauce

Serves 4

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more, if needed (divided use)

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (about 3 large cloves)

2 cups peeled and seeded tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons lightly toasted, ground coriander

salt and pepper to taste

four 7-ounce salmon fillets, boned and skinned

2 tablespoons lightly toasted, roughly chopped peanuts

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until the butter starts to brown. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring constantly until the garlic toasts and turns golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. The garlic will start to release its sugar and stick to your spoon just before it browns. Immediately stir in the tomatoes and coriander.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer the tomatoes for about 20 minutes, until they are soft and make a sauce. The consistency of the sauce may vary, depending on how juicy the tomatoes are. If it seems too dry, add a teaspoon or more of olive oil and a teaspoon of water. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and set aside.

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the pan is hot, place each salmon fillet on its skinned side (the oily side, which browns the best) in the pan and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until a nice golden-brown crust begins to form.

Lower the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid or heavy foil. Continue cooking the salmon on this side for another 6 minutes, until it's almost completely cooked except for a little rare spot in the thickest middle part of the fillet. Turn off the heat and flip each fillet over to cook the rare spot, letting the fillets sit for about 3 minutes.

Remove the fillets and place each on a dinner plate, crispy side up.

Top each fillet with 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce and sprinkle them with the peanuts and parsley. Serve immediately.

From "Spice"

Per serving: 456 calories, 47 grams protein, 27 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 6 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 133 milligrams cholesterol, 140 milligrams sodium

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